The Future of STEM in Ghana

Authored by:
Jhadha K.

College is such an exciting and amazing time in any persons life. Having opportunities like being able to study abroad, meeting amazing people, and meeting a community of people that are there to support you are some of the major perks.

When deciding to study abroad, I didn’t want to have the “Europe experience” of going to some country in Europe and country hopping the whole time. I wanted to go to a country and fall in love, so that’s what I did when I ended up going to Ghana. Some quick facts about me: I’m a first generation, woman of color, and a Computer Science and Mathematicians atics major with an Africana studies minor. While in Ghana, I took 5 courses: Artificial Intelligence, Linear Algebra, The Black Diaspora, Practical and Ensemble where I was in the school Pop Band and learned to play the alto saxophone, and Traditional dance where I learned three traditional dances from various regions of Ghana (Gahu, Fume Fume, and Adowa). Needless to say, I had such a great time in all of these classes.

Not only did I have great teachers and friends, I also had great opportunities. While planning my study abroad back in the states, I would ask professors in the math or CS department questions about courses so that I could plan my study abroad and when they asked where I was going and expected me to say a country like Budapest, they always hesitated a little before saying something like “Ghana...wow!” But coming to Accra, Ghana has been such a wonderful opportunity especially for a woman of color in Computer Science.

As many people in the computer science world and across the country understand, being a woman of color, specifically a black American (or mixed in my case) can feel impossible at times. If it weren’t for the amazing resources that I found on both my home campus and my abroad campus, I would have switched majors. After getting away from the stress of Bowdoin and just being free to do what I wanted in Ghana, I couldn’t imagine going back to campus just to face long nights and countless TA hours in Searles, it just wasn’t happening. I would sit in math class, bored and uninterested then joke around all class for my computer science because I wasn’t enjoying my major anymore. As welcoming and as friendly as people in my home school can be, it was always a struggle to stay afloat in the department (as my GPA can attest to) and I was ready to give up. Then I heard about Khalmax.

I was sitting in my Artificial Intelligence lab when our TA has us pay attention because we had a guest speaker. It was Frank, my soon to be employer, and he came to recruit us for Khalmax Robotics. The offer was, come teach 8 year old kids robotics. Some people in the class expressed interest and when one of my friends expressed interest also, I decided to apply. Typically, I don’t apply to much, which is a huge downfall, because the applications in computer science can be intimidating and it’s easy to feel under qualified but I decided to apply and got in.

When first hearing about Khalmax, I was told that the Khalmax Robotics Project is an intiative geared at empowering the younger generation to be innovative thinkers as well at empower them to be  problem solvers using science and technology. The students are trained to develop basic skills in robotics, computer programming and engineering where they learn:
1. Foundations in robotics
2. Basic electronics
3. Basic programming
4. Robot dynamics and sensors

At the their end of their classes they will take work on a final project, where they will work as a group to build a robot with their own hands. Then they present their robot In an upcoming robotics competition. After the competition, they have the option to further into advanced engineering courses, mobile app development, Bluetooth technology, etc.

I was intimidated by the complexity of the syllabus, but the students exceeded my expectation. I expected child geniuses but was met with normal kids that want to play and learn. The students were understanding basic robotics, building their own robots, having fun, and learning a skill that can take them extremely far into the future. We’re talking about 8 year olds that are building robots and participating in competitions.

When people think about Accra, Ghana, especially in the United States, they hear Africa which is right but what they don’t hear and what is shouted at me every day is bustling city filled with opportunity. I am completely thankful for my time with Khalmax and in Ghana.

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